MOSCOW (AP) — The Jehovah’s Witnesses say a Danish member of the religious denomination who has been imprisoned in Russia since 2017 has been granted early release by a court.
Russia officially banned the Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2017 and declared the religious group an extremist organization. Danish member Dennis Christensen was arrested that year for leading a prayer meeting and sentenced to six years in prison.
The denomination’s world headquarters in the United States said Tuesday that a Russian court ordered Christensen to pay a 400,000-ruble fine ($5,700) in place of serving out the rest of his sentence. The Jehovah’s Witnesses say 353 adherents are facing criminal cases in Russia, 34 are imprisoned and 24 are under house arrest.
“It is unconscionable, after Dennis’ harrowing experiences in prison, that he should have to pay a fine,” denomination spokesman Jarrod Lopes said in a statement. “Today’s ruling also does not erase the fact that Dennis, a peaceful Christian believer, still has to bear the unjust stigma of being convicted as an extremist,”